Incredible pictures of Queen’s Coronation in colour

Felicity Kendal shares her memories of the Queen’s coronation

Talk of King Charles III’s desire for a ‘slimmed-down’ monarchy has been swirling around for years and following his accession to the throne, reports surfaced about His Majesty’s plans for a scaled-back coronation.

His Coronation, due to take place on Saturday, May 6, will be the first since 1953 — the year his mother Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, aged just 27.

Constitutional expert Dr Bob Morris described the late Queen’s Coronation as the “last imperial hurrah,” and said the upcoming ceremony will reflect “the sort of country we have become”.

He previously told “We have changed a lot over the last 70 years and I think Charles accepts that must be reflected in the nature of the Coronation…rather than trying to repeat the enormous imperial splendour of 1953.”

While the King’s Coronation will be “rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry”, it “will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future”, as per Buckingham Palace.

Now, looks at how Charles’s Coronation will compare to his mother’s, revisiting pictures from the day that Britain’s longest-reigning monarch was crowned.

Scaled-back guest list 

8,251 guests crammed into Westminster Abbey to watch the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II. Many of them were seated in specially built grandstands.

The Abbey was closed for five months ahead of the ceremony in order for the construction — needed to host the enormous guest list — to be completed.

In contrast, a 2,200-strong congregation will witness King Charles’s official crowning. The monarch’s guest list fits within the usual capacity of the Abbey, meaning extra seating will be unnecessary.

Dr Morris said: “So one’s looking at a Coronation that perhaps looks more like a royal wedding than the last coronation,” referring to the nuptials of Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales, in April 2011 which saw 2,000 guests descend upon the London church.

To prepare for Saturday’s Coronation, the Abbey will be closed to visitors and worshippers from Tuesday, April 25, and will re-open on Monday, May 8 — giving organisers just two weeks to prepare the venue.

Fewer aristocrats, more unsung heroes

Revisions to the guest list will also see the inclusion of people representing all ages, backgrounds and geographical areas, differing from the 1953 Coronation whose invitees primarily came from the aristocracy and nobility.

“The largest group [of guests] was hereditary aristocrats and their wives and plainly, ones not going to see many Lords on the next occasion because only 92 of them sit in the House of Lords these days,” Dr Morris explained.

This time, availability for Lords, Peers and Members of Parliament has been vastly reduced; out of the 780 members of the House of Lords, less than 100 are expected to be invited.

UK politicians in attendance include Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will give a reading, and former prime ministers are expected to have been invited. Senior cabinet ministers and the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, are also thought to be on the guest list.

Instead, many seats will be filled by unsung heroes such as NHS workers and charity representatives.

Last month, the Palace announced more than 850 community and charity representatives across the UK had been invited to enjoy the Coronation from Abbey.

Charles is also keen to put more emphasis on the country’s diversity at his Coronation.

Vernon Bogdanor, a British political scientist, historian, and research professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History at King’s College London, told “There will be a much stronger representation of the Commonwealth at the Coronation. I think Charles has said he intends to have some sort of multi-denominational service to bring in Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and the rest to show that he is King of the whole country, not just the Anglicans.

“That will be outside the Coronation service, which is a religious service, an Anglican service, and has been so since about the Eighth Century.”

Maids vs Pages 

Six Maids of Honour flanked Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her Coronation. Lady Rosemary Muir, Lady Anne Glenconner, Lady Moyra Campbell, Lady Mary Russell, Lady Jane Lacey and Baroness Willoughby de Eresby were chosen to follow the young royal down Westminster Abbey to be crowned as Sovereign.

They have described themselves as the “Spice Girls” of their day and became famous in their own right when their names were announced as the women selected for the special honour.

All of them were close friends of the Royal Family and were chosen for their “decorative” beauty as well as their ability to carry the Queen’s heavy 21ft train.

Complimenting the monarch’s white silk, embroidered dress, the Maids of Honour donned glittering white gowns, made by Norman Hartnell — the Queen’s dressmaker, and gold tiaras.

In 2013, five of the six women, 60 years on, reunited to speak with Sue MacGregor on Radio 4’s The Reunion. “Nothing could be quite so extraordinary as being a lady-in-waiting at the Queen’s Coronation,” Lady Jane gushed.

Dissimilarly, however, Queen Camilla is set to have two Ladies in Attendance: Lady Lansdowne, a close friend and Queen’s Companion, and her sister Annabel Elliot.

Pages of Honour will attend to both the King and Queen Consort, the youngest of whom is nine-year-old Prince George, the Prince and Princess of Wales’s eldest son.

Camilla’s grandsons — Freddy Parker Bowles and twins Gus and Louis Lopes, all 13 — and her great-nephew Arthur Elliot, 10, will serve the Queen Consort, while George will attend to his grandfather alongside Lord Oliver Cholmondeley, 13, a son of the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, Nicholas Barclay, 13, a son of the King’s goddaughter Rose Troughton and her husband Piers Barclay, and Ralph Tollemache, 12, also the son of one of Charles’s godchildren.

The Pages will be in charge of holding the robes of some of the leading individuals taking part in the ceremony, a role normally assigned to teenage sons of members of the nobility and gentry, and senior Royal Household members.

They will wear a scarlet frock coat with gold trimmings, a white satin waistcoat, white breeches and hose, white gloves, black buckled shoes and a lace cravat and ruffles.

Diverging from the dress code

For members of the Royal Family and Coronation guests, the dress code is expected to be more relaxed than previously done, with a “day dress” dress code seeming to be the understood protocol for the event.

It has been reported Charles has requested guests adhere to a code of “standard business attire”, asking them to “dress down” for the historic occasion. It is a dress code that will see a congregation wearing clothing notably different from what coronations have traditionally demanded.

Whether members of the family, like Princess Kate and Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, will wear tiaras of their own, is currently undetermined.

During an episode of Hello! Magazine’s A Right Royal Podcast, dedicated solely to the upcoming event, commentators speculated about the royal women’s attire.

Joe Little, editor at Majesty magazine, explained the wider effect of tiaras being worn at the Coronation, saying the royal women would also “have to wear a long dress”.

“If everybody’s in the Abbey in long dresses, that looks like a throwback to a bygone era,” he said: “In 1953, all the princesses wore tiaras — and coronets as well. I don’t think we’ll see that this time.”

However, despite previous reports suggesting aristocrats had been advised to avoid ceremonial garb in hopes of a “pared-down” service, it has now been claimed members of the House of Lords have been granted permission to don historic coronation dress, such as crimson robes and coronets — following the same dress code as the 1953 Coronation.

King Charles’s dress code, however, is expected to be more relaxed and it’s understood he may wear his military uniform, contrasting with the attire of his late mother, whose beaded gown, featuring diamantés and pearls, was layered with a cream capped-sleeved dress and a purple crimson velvet and ermine robe.

Camilla crowned 

On April 4, 2023, the official invite for the Coronation was unveiled, revealing that Camilla would be crowned alongside her husband as Queen Camilla.

When Charles and Camilla married in 2005, it was decided that the then-Duchess of Cornwall would be known as Princess Consort upon her husband’s accession. Then, in February 2022, Queen Elizabeth declared it was her “sincere wish” that her daughter-in-law be named Queen Consort.

Camilla will be crowned with Queen Mary’s Crown, marking the first time in recent history that an existing crown will be used for the Coronation of a Consort instead of a new commission being made.

Also marking a break in tradition, Camilla will be in full public view when she is anointed with the holy oil. When a Queen Consort was last crowned, in 1937 at the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, she was hidden under a canopy during the sacred moment.

Camilla will also do away with the ritual of holding the Rod with Dove, a controversial component of the Coronation regalia as it is formed from three sections of ivory.

Unlike the Queen Mother, Prince Philip was not crowned during his wife Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation.

Pledge of Allegiance

The Duke of Edinburgh did kneel before the Queen and swore to “become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God’”.

In fact, all the Dukes who attended did.

At the King’s Coronation, his eldest son William will be the only one to kneel and pledge allegiance to Charles. Neither Prince Harry nor Prince Andrew, the Duke of York will be required to kneel before the King.

But, for the first time in history, the public will be given an active role in the Coronation, having been invited to say the oath to the King out loud.

During the service, the Archbishop of Canterbury will ask “all who so desire, in the Abbey, and elsewhere, [to] say together: I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”

There will then be a fanfare, after which the Most Reverend Justin Welby will say: “God Save The King”, with all asked to respond: “God Save King Charles. Long Live King Charles. May The King live forever.”

Shorter procession

The late Queen rode in her carriage with her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, for five miles across London following her Coronation ceremony.

It was designed so the monarch could be seen by as many people as possible and took two hours to complete.

16,000 people participated in the procession, which went past St James’ Palace, down Oxford Street, through Picadilly Circus and back to Buckingham Palace.

King Charles’s procession route is a much shorter 1.3 miles.

He and Camilla will, however, travel in the Gold State Coach, which has been used at every Coronation since that of William IV in 1831. It was last seen during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II.

Iconic balcony appearance

After the service, King Charles and Queen Camilla will be joined by working members of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

They are expected to be joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales, and their children, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, Princess Anne and her husband Sir Timothy Laurence, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.

There, they will greet well-wishers and watch the RAF flypast.  

It has been reported that King Charles wants the line-up of people on the balcony to “represent the monarchy” with his more “slimmed-down” approach.

After the 1953 Coronation, Queen Elizabeth was joined by several members of the immediate Royal Family, including her husband Philip, children Charles and Anne, sister Princess Margaret and mother Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Her six Maids of Honour also accompanied the newly-crowned monarch, as did more distant royal relatives.

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